Considered as the most important pilgrimage site in all of the south India, Sabarimala is adobe to Lord Ayyappan also known as Dharma Sastha who is known as to be son of Harihara, a fusion of Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva. Situated amidst the dense forest of Periyar Tiger Reserve in the Pathanamthitta district of the Kerala state, the temple is made in between 18 hills at an altitude of 1260m above the sea level and there exist a temple on each of these hills. The gates of the temple are open for worship during the days of Mandalpooja i.e. approximately from 15th November to 26th December, Makar Sankranti i.e. 14th January, Maha Vishuva Sankranti i.e. 14th April and for the first five days of each month of Malayalam calendar. Entry of females between the ages of over 10 to below 50 is prohibited by the judgment of the Kerala High Court in 1991; currently the Supreme Court is reviewing a petition filed against this ruling by the high court over the ban on entry of woman, judgment awaited.
Out of many stories of his origin the most popular is about the human birth of Lord Ayyappan in 12th century as Manikandan, son to the king of Pandalam. It is said that he was found in dense forest by the king Rajasekhara Pandiyan who himself being charitable, just and god fearing has no child of his own and upon finding a baby with a Mani around his neck, the king named the child Manikandan. After few years, Manikandan showed convincing proof of his divine origin upon riding on a tigress along with her cubs inside the palace which was a shocking turnaround of conspiracy by the physician of the royal family and ministers. After his revelation as a divine power, the king himself begged for mercy over not able to recognize the true power of the divine lord and asked for Manikandan’s blessings. The Lord further asked the king that he could construct a temple at Sabarimala where his deity can be installed and further explained what the devotees can attain by his ‘darshan’. Then after blessing the King and all other present around, Lord disappeared in the forest and after that the king built the temple dedicated to Lord Ayyappan. Alongside the Main temple there are several other temples dedicated to several other deities like Lord Shiva, Ganpathi etc, there is also a place which is just beside the main temple called VAVAR PALLY (MOSQUE), constructed by Muslims in memory of Vavar swamy who was considered as a close associate to Lord Ayyappan.
The path to temple is a 6km trail through a dense forest and is covered on foot by the devotees from Pamba to Sabarimala; Pamba is the main halting point on the way to Sabarimala. From here, pilgrims begin the climb to reach the temple but before that people can reach Chengannur, TVM Central, Punalur, Kottarakkara; the nearest railway station to Pamba and from there they can come in buses or taxi to Pamba. Nearest airport to the Pamba is Kochi international Airport and Thiruvanthapuram International Airport, from their one can reach Sabarimala via taxi service which runs up to Pamba.
Sabarimala attracts more and more devotees for not only as a holy shrine but being a place of healing and achieving awareness. The Temple is a center for communal harmony and unity, a place open for all religion and to all caste and creed of people. The main purpose of visiting the Sabarimala is to realize that we are not this mortal body and mind and our true nature(Atma) is the witnessing consciousness and dynamic awareness are one and the same. Sabarimala is above this materialistic world which some people doesn’t understand and visit this place to get their materialistic wishes granted, which is far away and opposite of getting liberated from the never ending cycle of birth and death. Every year more than 40million of devotees visit this holy shrine which makes it one of the largest annual pilgrimages in the world. On record, 14 January 2007 witnessed a huge gathering of more than 5 million people visiting the temple to catch a glimpse of their deity.